Statement from ACTU Secretary Sally McManus on John Setka

13th June 2019

“Today I met and had a long and frank discussion with John Setka. I told him it is in the best interests of the union movement that he resigns.

“I have consulted a wide range of union leaders and they share this view.

“There are several matters currently before the court. If media reports are correct the allegations John is facing are serious. I also note that yesterday John said he would plead guilty to charges of harassing a woman using a carriage service.

“I have previously said that if these allegation are correct they are totally unacceptable. There is no place for perpetuators of domestic violence in leadership positions in our movement.

“I want to make it clear that I cannot comment in detail on those matters, and this is regardless of what John said he intends to do regarding these allegations. This is because I am bound by the law in this matter. These matters are still before the court. It is important I explain this as I know many people do not understand how these laws work, and that’s fair enough, everyone can’t be expected to by a legal expert and to know the ins and outs of the law.

“We have laws that prevent people, in particular people in public positions, making comment on matters that are before a court. This is so that the court can go through its processes without outside interference. This is so all parties have the benefit of a fair process.  This is an important principle and there are laws in place that prevent people making comments that interfere with this right.

“We have already put on record the union movement’s values and our principles regarding family and domestic violence. Everyone has a right to a safe home, workplace and community and we have been campaigning for many years for this. We also believe in equality for women and know that instances of violence against women are not just unacceptable, they stand in the way of achieving equality.

“I have also put on record our support for and total admiration of Rosie Batty whom we have campaigned beside and whose goals we share.

“Having these values means we must demonstrate them.

“Union officials and union members are doing this in workplaces across our country, supporting or standing up for victims of domestic violence and are working to achieve our goals.

“Unions have been, and will continue to, fight for improved rights to protect and support people leaving abusive relationships to protect themselves and often to also protect their children. This means unions are negotiating and winning paid leave so people can make these choices. This means having the discussions with employers, many of whom are supportive, but inevitably some who are not, and convincing them it is in our shared interest to implement measures that go towards the goal of ending family violence.

“As part of our work achieving these goals, we also invest in the education of our members, employers and the wider community in preventing family and domestic violence.

“This involves education on what it is, and how it is harmful, and what we can all do to prevent it. There are many forms of domestic violence, from denigration and abuse to the shocking statistic that as of today 21 women this year have been murdered by a partner or family member.

“This statistic does not include those women who have been murdered just by going about their lives, this number currently stands in our country at 69 women.  All forms of violence against women are unacceptable and we will continue our campaigns to end it.

“Right now, representatives of the Australian union movement are fighting to improve the rights for woman and men, to be free from gendered violence at work not just in Australia, but across the world. We are in Geneva at the International Labour Organisation which brings together representatives from governments, employers and unions from every country. Australian union movement representatives are there arguing for a new global convention on violence and harassment at work, and fighting for better rights for all workers. This is also putting our values into practice.

“Working people expect their leaders to uphold union values and to be focused on advancing their interests. Our role is to do everything we can to improve the working lives of our members and aim to hand on better conditions to the next generation.

“Unions are democratic, member-run organisations and while John is elected by his members, he also needs to consider the interests of working people and the wider union movement.

“Where an individual’s actions cause damage to the whole movement, the interest of union members and the whole movement needs to be put first.

“The current Federal Government will use any opportunity to impose further, anti-democratic, anti-worker laws on all union officials and all unions, it is clear they will try and exploit this situation for their own ends. These laws will make it harder for ordinary working people to receive fair wages and conditions. We must oppose these laws.

“Now, in the interests of our movement, in the interests of working people, and in the interests of the values we share, I have asked John to do what is best for everyone and stand down.”